The Presidential Seal
By Lori Ferber
One of the most recognizable designs in the world is undoubtedly the Seal of the President of the United States of America. Each time the President holds a news conference or makes a speech, people around the world see the familiar Seal of the President strategically placed to the lectern as a symbol of the Presidency.
The overall design of the Seal is based on the Great Seal of the United States and serves as an official coat of arms of the U.S. presidency. The seal also appears on Presidential orders, commissions or other official documents published under the President’s name as well as on the Air Force One airplane, Marine one and the Presidential limousine.
The actual seal is primarily used on correspondence from the President to the United States to Congress and is used to actually seal the envelopes with a wax seal. Official correspondence and documents signed by the President when representing the nation are traditionally instead sealed with the Great Seal of the United States
Along the outside edges are 50 stars representing the 50 states of Union and the words “Seal of the President of the United States.” In the center is the coat of arms (which closely resembles the Great Seal of the United States) with an American bald eagle. In its right talon the eagle is clutching an olive branch which symbolizes peace and in its left talon it holds 13 arrows representing the original 13 colonies In its beak is a ribbon with the Latin words “E Pluribus Unum” which means “Out of many, one”. The arc of thirteen clouds, and the thirteen stars, also refer to the original 13 states.In its talons the eagle grasps an olive branch representing peace, and 13 arrows representing war. It is believed that this demonstrates the country’s desire for peace but its willingness to defend the Country with strength and might.
The exact history of the Seal of the President is difficult to determine. The first President who is known to have used a presidential seal similar to today’s design, was Rutherford B. Hayes. President Hayes is said to have had one designed for use on Presidential invitations to the White House in 1877 – 1880. Other seals were undoubtedly used by prior Presidents by use and customer, but there bear little resemblance to today’s version. In many cases early seals have been identified more often as personal seals of a President or a President’s family, as opposed to official seals.
However, the first time the Seal of the President was described in law was by President Truman in 1945. On October 26, 1945 President Truman approved a change in the Seal (changing the position and direction of the eagle) The eagle on the coat of arms faced left, toward the gray arrows, until ordered that it face right, looking toward the olive branch of peace showing a preference for peace over war. This design remains in use today under Executive Order 9646. The only additional changes to that design were adding the 49 stars to the circle when the States of Alaska and Hawaii joined the Union.